The day started as usual, with a critique of the students work before we headed off to photograph on location. Today’s assignment was to photograph people and we were heading to the green market, the local open air bazaar, to find our subjects. Things got off to a bit of a rocky start however when, only a few minutes after arriving, several of our students were approached by security and forced to delete all of the photographs they’d taken. Things got a little tense and we thought we were going to be banned from the market. Apparently, they had recently implemented a permission policy for any photography in the market and three vans full of hyperactive teens with cameras weren’t exactly going to go under the radar.
As security was herding our students out the gate Haidar’s car arrived and he got into the action. In about twenty minutes, he had us in the market’s security head’s office and we were talking the situation over with the big man. Haidar being Haidar, (I swear he’s an undercover official of some kind) he talked for a couple minutes and then handed over a document to the station manager. In about 30 seconds the issue was over and our students were allowed to photograph their little hearts out. On the way out of the station, I asked Haidar jokingly if he was some kind of big man and he responded, “I’m little man with big document.”
Once they had permission, the students DID photograph their little hearts out! While we’d seen lots of good work these last couple of days, a lot of the images they created today were transcendent. Great angles, good connection with their subjects and lots of relationships let these guys to making some of their best work yet.
Today we had the biggest graduation ceremony for any of our students yet! We had been toying with the idea of having a graduation ceremony for our advanced students, like we do with the beginner class, but the budget and the timing was already pretty tight. So instead we intended to have an intimate gathering, celebrate the last few days, and send the students off. Well, that plan only lasted until we arrived at the Ismaili Centre. The auditorium in this place is amazing! With seating for hundreds, great sound, and an incredible projector, these students were set to have the show of their lives! (So far.) How could we not? So we rescheduled our assignment to the morning and made a plan to download, edit, and critique their work in the afternoon so we could have a presentation ready for the evenings show.
It was a chaotic, hectic day but in the end we had more than 200 visitors for the presentation. We watched the news coverage from last year’s program, then their final story show from last year, and finally we saw the work they had made these last three days. We built videos of the student’s work, making slideshows from their images and adding traditional Pamiri music, creating about 25 minutes of video from the student’s work. After words from Fred, Arthur, and the Chairwoman of The Ismaili Council – who gave an eloquent talk about the voice of the Tajik people – we were then blessed when one of the students perfomerd a traditional Tajik dance and another sang a Pamir folksong. We gave certificates and class photos, the Aga Khan Foundation gifted us traditional Pamiri socks, and the usual hugs and goodbyes closed out a fantastic evening.